31 Cars for Le Mans Cup Opener
Thirty-one cars will take part in this weekend’s Michelin Le Mans Cup opener at Circuit Paul Ricard, including a diverse GT3 field and packed LMP3 entry.
Entries from Ligier and Norma make up the 21-car LMP3 field which features leading teams such as United Autosports, Graff, Cool Racing, Nielsen Racing and DKR Engineering.
Reigning teams’ champion DKR returns with two Norma M30 Nissans for Francois Kirmann and Laurents Hoerr, and Marcello Marateotto and Marco Cencetti.
Five different manufacturers are represented in the ten-strong GT3 pack, including Mercedes-AMG, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and Aston Martin.
The likes of Kessel Racing, Spirit of Race, Scuderia Villorba Corse, Ebimotors and Beechdean AMR are present amongst the field.
2018 champions Sergio Pianezzola and Giacomo Piccini will defend their title for Kessel.
The two-hour race will get underway at 4 p.m. local time on Saturday, following Free Practice on Friday and qualifying on Saturday morning.
News & Notes
***A two-day European Le Mans Series pre-season test gets underway today, ahead of the season opener at Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend. A total of 17 hours of track time will be available to competitors at the French circuit on Monday and Tuesday.
***Michelin Le Mans Cup competitors will be given seven hours of testing time on Wednesday, ahead of their first race at Paul Ricard on Saturday.
***Panis Barthez Competition has completed its ELMS LMP2 lineup with the signing of Michelin Le Mans Cup LMP3 champion Leonard Hoogenboom. The 19-year-old Dutch racer, who won his 2018 title with DKR Engineering, will share the team’s No. 24 Ligier JS P217 Gibson with Timothe Buret and Konstantin Tereschenko.
***The ADAC GT Masters and ADAC GT4 Germany fields are also testing this week, with sessions on Monday and Tuesday morning at Oschersleben.
***Several GT Masters driver pairings have been finalized in recent days. ISR has kept its lineup of Filip Salaquarda and Frank Stippler for another season. The Czech team is fielding an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo.
***Jimmy Eriksson and Kelvin Snoeks will race for Team Zakspeed BKK Mobil Oil Racing, while the drivers for the team’s other Mercedes-AMG GT3 are yet to be decided.
***Sven Barth and David Jahn have been confirmed as RWT Racing’s drivers for its GT Masters entry with the Corvette C7 GT3-R, meanwhile.
***ACO president Pierre Fillon formally opened new multi-purpose hospitality, briefing and pit building for the Le Mans Maison Blanche training circuit last week, as part of ongoing construction work at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
***French media have also reported that the ACO is set to obtain full ownership of the main Le Mans pit tribune from the Syndicate Mixte group which currently rents out the complex to the 24-hour race organizer. This change of hands comes in anticipation of construction work for a new pit structure in time for the 2023 centennial race.
***Mark Webber, Neel Jani and Tom Kristensen were among the star names taking part in the 77th Goodwood Members’ Meeting last weekend. 2015 World Endurance Champion Webber got behind the wheel of an ex-Mark Donohue Porsche 917 for a parade marking the car’s 50th anniversary, while 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Jani beat several other sports car aces competing in the Gerry Marshall Trophy race for 1970s touring cars.
***Jani, who was driving a Rover 3500, inherited the victory post-race with co-driver James Wood while BMW Team RLL IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar driver Tom Blomqvist set the fastest lap in a Ford Escort. Guy Smith, Romain Dumas and 1970 Le Mans winner Richard Attwood also featured.
***Smith and nine-time Le Mans winner Kristensen were then reunited with the Bentley Speed 8 that took them and Rinaldo Capello to Le Mans victory in 2003. The Bentley took part in Goodwood’s high-speed Le Mans Prototype demonstration that also included a Peugeot 908 driven by Nicolas Minassian, an ex-factory Audi R8 from 2000 and a Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report.